Flag Consideration Panel members announced

  • Bill English
Deputy Prime Minister

The Government has appointed 12 New Zealanders as members of the Flag Consideration Panel which will engage with the public about a possible new New Zealand flag, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says.

The panel will be chaired by former deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Canterbury Emeritus Professor John Burrows, ONZM, QC of Christchurch who was co-chair of the Constitutional Advisory Panel. Writer and reviewer Kate de Goldi of Wellington will be the deputy chair of the Flag Consideration Panel.

The other 10 members are:

Nicky Bell – CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand and board director, Auckland

Peter Chin, CNZM – Former Mayor of Dunedin, director and trustee, Dunedin

Julie Christie,  ONZM – Director of Julie Christie Inc. and board member, Auckland

Rod Drury – CEO of Xero and technology entrepreneur, Havelock North

Beatrice Faumuina, ONZM – Olympian, Commonwealth gold medallist, ASB Head of Talent & People Strategy, board member and trustee, Waitakere

Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones, CNZM – Former Chief of NZ Defence Force, Wellington

Stephen Jones – Invercargill Youth Councillor, Invercargill 

Sir Brian Lochore, ONZ, KNZM, OBE – Former All Blacks captain, coach and administrator, Masterton

Malcolm Mulholland – Academic and flag historian, Palmerston North

Hana O’Regan – Academic, Māori studies and te reo Māori,  Christchurch

“Many New Zealanders were considered for the panel following nominations by a cross-party group of MPs,” Mr English said.

“I am pleased with the panel’s independence, calibre and experience and each member has committed to undertake the flag consideration process carefully, respectfully and with no presumption in favour of change.”

The panel will hold its first meeting in early March. It will:

  • Consider and oversee a public engagement process to begin in May.
  • Invite New Zealanders to send in designs or ideas regarding a possible alternative flag.
  • Shortlist designs for the first postal referendum, which will be held this year using a preferential voting system, inviting voters to rank the designs in order of preference.

The winning design will run off against the current New Zealand flag in a second, binding referendum to be held next year using the First Past the Post voting system. A New Zealand Flags Referendums Bill containing these measures will be introduced to Parliament shortly.

“This process will give New Zealanders the rare privilege of having a say on one of the most important symbols of our nation,” Mr English says. 

“I hope New Zealanders will take the opportunity to listen and talk to each other and consider the design suggestions that come forward before making their minds up and taking part in the referendums.”

Flag Consideration secretariat: info@flag.govt.nz

Frequently asked questions:


What’s happening with our flag?
In 2015 and early 2016, New Zealanders will consider options for our flag’s future, with a formal opportunity for Kiwis to vote to keep the existing flag or change it. 

Will the flag definitely change?
No.  A referendum will be held to decide whether or not to change the flag next year.

How do I have a say in the process?
A group of New Zealanders, the Flag Consideration Panel, will provide opportunities for all New Zealanders to participate in discussions and suggest their designs and ideas. This process will occur from May to July 2015. After that, the Panel will report back to the Government with a shortlist to go forward for voting.

The first referendum will be held in late 2015, using the preferential voting system. Voters will be asked to rank the alternative designs. The winning design will go forward to the second referendum, where voters will choose between that design and the current flag.

What if I don’t want the flag to change?
You get that choice in the second referendum where you choose between the current flag and the preferred alternative.


Why does New Zealand need to consider a new flag?
The current flag was adopted in 1902 and since the 1960s New Zealanders have been debating whether it should be replaced. Suggestions for alternative flag designs have been put forward from time to time, but until now there has never been an official public debate.

Why doesn’t Government just change the flag? 
By law, the flag can be changed by a majority of Parliament.  However, the Government’s view is that decisions on the flag should be made by all New Zealanders eligible to vote.


When can I send in my design idea?
From approximately May until July 2015 anyone can suggest a design.  A set of guidelines will be available to help people develop their designs.  The Flag Consideration Panel  will narrow this down to a shortlist of alternative designs that reflect the views of the public.

How will Māori communities be consulted?
The Flag Consideration Panel will include members who will bring a Māori perspective and will take advice on how Māori communities can best be consulted as a key part of the public engagement process.  The Panel will be appointed in mid-February and the public engagement process will be launched in May 2015. 

How will New Zealanders overseas participate in the referendum?
Eligible New Zealanders who are either enrolled at an overseas postal address, or who provide a temporary one will be sent referendum voting papers.  Once they have received their voting papers, these can be completed and either posted back or uploaded using the overseas voting paper upload facility (elections.org.nz).


  • Feb 2015 - Flag Consideration Panel appointed
  • Mid 2015 - Public engagement process (inc flag suggestions approx May – July)
  • Late 2015 - First referendum (to choose a preferred alternative design)
  • Early 2016 - 2nd referendum (to choose between winner of first referendum and current flag)


Who can vote in the referendums?
People who are enrolled prior to the start of the voting period will be able to vote in the postal referendums.

Who is the Responsible Minister?
The Responsible Minister is the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Bill English. 

Who’s on the Cross Party MPs’ Group (CPG) and what do they do?
The CPG made nominations for the Flag Consideration Panel and has been involved in the development of the draft New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill, making recommendations to the Responsible Minister as necessary.   The Cross Party Group includes these Members of Parliament:
Jonathan Young (Chair)         National
Hon Trevor Mallard                  Labour
Dr Kennedy Graham              Green
Marama Fox                             Māori
David Seymour                        ACT
Hon Peter Dunne                    United Future

New Zealand First opted not to take part.

Who will be on the Flag Consideration Panel (FCP) and what do they do?
The role of the FCP is to design and lead the public engagement process over the New Zealand Flag, and to select a shortlist of designs.  A key feature of the group is that it is independent and non-partisan. The members of the Panel are:

Prof John Burrows (Chair), ONZM, QC
Nicky Bell
Peter Chin, CNZM
Julie Christie, ONZM
Rod Drury
Beatrice Faumuina, ONZM
Kate de Goldi (Deputy Chair)
Lt Gen (Rtd) Rhys Jones, CNZM
Stephen Jones
Sir Brian Lochore, ONZ, KNZM, OBE
Malcolm Mulholland
Hana O’Regan


How much will the process cost?
The estimated cost is $25.7m over two years. Most of the budget is for two postal referendums ($17.3m) and public consultation ($6.7m). To have a process which is legitimate, and for the outcome to endure, it is important to do it properly. Our current flag has served us for over a century, and it is possible that a new flag would serve us for another century or longer.

If there is a new flag, Government organisations will have to use it.  What will that cost?
It has been estimated that it will cost up to $2.66m to replace flags on government buildings and facilities and Defence Force uniforms over time if the flag is changed.   Other costs, including changing flags on government ships and on drivers' licences, are not specified at this time, but again these will happen over time.

How much will be the Flag Consideration Panel be paid?
In keeping with the Cabinet Fees Framework, Panel members will receive $640 per day and the Chair will receive $850 per day. 


Why don’t we combine the referendums with a local government or general election?
Combining the referendums with other elections could be confusing for voters.  Also, previous referendums held with parliamentary elections have cost at least as much as running a stand-alone postal referendum, so after careful consideration a decision was made to proceed with the two referendum process. 

Why don’t we just do one referendum?
It is considered that a dual referendum process is more likely to lead to a legitimate and enduring result.

Why not vote first on whether we should change the flag?
The two referendum process will mean that New Zealanders will know what the alternative flag would look like before they decide whether to keep the current flag.

The ‘Process to Consider Changing the New Zealand Flag’ Cabinet paper (28 October 2014) talks about a single vote in the first referendum.  Why has this changed?
Following recommendations by the New Zealand Flag Cross-Party MPs’ Group (the CPG) a decision was made to use preferential voting in the first referendum.  It was also agreed that four alternative flag designs will be included in the first referendum and that the second referendum will be held in March 2016.

If we get a new flag, what happens to the current one?
If New Zealanders choose a new flag, the current flag has historical status and will not become unlawful.  Government departments that currently fly the flag will be expected to start flying the new flag when that flag becomes official, but other New Zealanders will be free to change over as and when they wish. 

If the flag changes, when will it happen?
The legislation setting up the referendums will specify when the change of flag would happen, if there is a vote to change the flag. It is likely that the change would take place within six months of the second referendum.

What about the current national Māori (Tino Rangatiratanga) Flag?  
In 2009, the Government recognised the Tino Rangatiratanga Flag as the preferred national Māori flag, and noted that it will complement the New Zealand Flag. A change to the New Zealand Flag would not affect the status of the national Māori flag.

Hasn’t the Prime Minister already indicated his views regarding the flag?
Yes, and he acknowledges that New Zealanders have a range of views.  All eligible New  Zealanders will have one vote in each referendum.

Will this process impact New Zealand’s Anzac commemorations? 
No.  The centenary of the Gallipoli landing will be observed under the current flag. 

What impact will this have on New Zealand’s relationship with the United Kingdom and membership of the Commonwealth?
None.  This is a debate about our flag only; it’s not a discussion about a republic or membership of the Commonwealth. 

What will happen after the second referendum?
The legislation that enables the flag referendums will include mechanisms that make any decision binding. That means New Zealanders can be sure that if the alternative design receives the largest number of votes in the second referendum, it will become the new national flag; if the current flag receives the largest number of votes, it will remain the New Zealand Flag. If a new flag is chosen, the referendum legislation will determine when the new flag will become official.

What about other symbols of state (eg New Zealand Coat of Arms)? If the New Zealand Flag changes, will these other symbols also need to change?
The current New Zealand Flag is only one design element of the New Zealand Coat of Arms. If the flag changes, the Coat of Arms will not become invalid or obsolete so government departments which use it (on their stationery and websites etc) will continue to do so.

The same is true for other items which incorporate the New Zealand Coat of Arms, such as the Seal of New Zealand. A number of other flags and ensigns, including the New Zealand Police and New Zealand Fire Service flags are based on the current New Zealand Flag. If it changes, these agencies may revisit their flags in future, but change will not be automatic.

Has the flag changed before?
Yes, twice so we’ve had three flags. In 1834, the first flag – now known as the Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand – was chosen by Māori at Waitangi to represent New Zealand. Following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Union Flag (‘Union Jack’) became New Zealand’s official flag. The New Zealand Ensign was officially adopted in 1902. 

For more information on the New Zealand Flag and its history, see

Why can’t I vote online?
New Zealand legislation does not currently allow online voting in parliamentary elections or referendums. Developing a secure and tested online voting system within a reasonably short period of time would incur high cost and be administratively difficult. 

What is the New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill?
It is the Bill that will establish the processes for the two referendums.

Can I make submissions on the New Zealand Flag Referendums Bill?
Yes, the Bill will go through a select committee process.  The committee will call for submissions and this is likely to be from around late-March 2015.

What are the project’s guiding principles? 

  • Independent: the process is as apolitical as possible, with multi-party support and public input into decision-making;
  • Inclusive: all perspectives are invited and considered from within New Zealand’s diverse communities, including Māori as tangata whenua;
  • Enduring: the outcome (whether change or status quo) is upheld and not revisited for a significant period;
  • Well-informed: the public has access to information to enable it to make decisions;
  • Practical: the process is workable, cost-effective, and implementation is possible;
  • Community-driven: designs and suggestions come from the community;
  • Dignified: the process upholds the importance of the flag as a symbol of our nationhood;
  • Legitimate: all legislative and other requirements are followed; and
  • Consistent with the Crown’s Treaty obligations.